Money To Live

July 6, 2012

The second paycheck

Filed under: career,family finances — by moneytolive @ 3:34 pm

Since having a baby, I changed the way we handle our paychecks. Before, everything went into our joint account and was then siphoned off to a savings account or used to pay bills. Now, though, my paychecks go into a separate account, at a different bank.

I keep my paycheck separate to make sure that I earn enough money to cover the costs of working – childcare, house cleaner, prepared meals, …

A few weeks ago, I talked about this with a friend. Her family was in a financial transition (big boost in income), and she decided to set up their finances the same way. Her partner’s paycheck would cover all expenses, and hers would go into a separate account.

Despite being reassured on a Friday that her job was safe, on the following Monday she was unexpectedly laid off. Amidst the unpleasant aspects of a layoff, she was very appreciative that she had already set up their day-to-day finances without depending on her income.


March 17, 2012

Constantly checking accounts

Filed under: budgeting,family finances — by moneytolive @ 2:49 am

I think it’s time to revise how I handle our finances. Back when it was just me and R, I had a routine where once a week I checked our main accounts and reviewed our cash flow projects for the next few months. This was also a time to transfer money between accounts. Once a month I did a more thorough review and took a snapshot of all of our accounts (cash, credit cards, investment, etc.).

Now, though, I am checking our main accounts about five times a week. Since my income is irregular and we have new, large, recurring expenses (primarily, childcare), our accounts are a little more complicated. Throw in a major car repair, plane tickets to England, and a delayed tax refund …

Our money for childcare is kept in a separate bank account. If my projections are correct, this account will finally have a surplus by September. Then I won’t need to keep tabs on its balance as closely.

Until then (and until we get our tax refund), I am grateful to have built up an emergency fund. We can pay all of our bills on time while we wait for some cash flow bumps to smooth out.

February 6, 2012

Secret Savings

Filed under: family finances,savings — by moneytolive @ 8:22 pm

Some people stash money away secretly from a partner, but that’s not what I mean by secret savings. I’m talking about keeping it a secret from yourself. My mom and my husband both do it; I don’t.

As a girl, I remember my mom showing me her check register and how she rounded up every withdrawal a little bit. That way, there was always extra money in the account.

Hubby R has two secret stashes, at different locations. One of his stashes is in a CD and would cover 3 months of minimal living expenses, but it’s not allowed to be counted as part of our emergency fund. I think of it as his "Knight in shining armor fund." If our finances completely collapse (not likely), he can ride in on a white horse to save the day. His other secret stash is the "zombie attack fund." It’s about 3 weeks worth of living expenses stored in cash at a secure, alarmed location.

Despite these two accounts being "secret," I include them in our monthly net worth statement. Each month, R reminds me that these don’t count and that I’m supposed to forget about them. I laugh.

January 23, 2012

Buying airplane tickets for an infant

Filed under: babies,family finances,travel — by moneytolive @ 9:32 pm

R and I travel several times a year, primarily to visit my family and friends (his friends are all local, and his family is all overseas). R is tall, and neither of us is tiny, so airplane seats are not that comfortable. When we were expecting, I paid attention on flights. Could we fit into two seats with a baby? I decided that no, it just would not be comfortable.

We have our first two airplane trips planned for the spring — to visit my parents and to attend a wedding. Baby L will be about 5 and 6 months old for these trips, and we got him his own seat each time.

In order to be less annoyed at buying extra airplane tickets, I signed up for an Alaska Airlines credit card. Alaska has good flights/times/prices on our most frequent routes (San Fran, Las Vegas, Austin) and decent leg room, relative to other airlines. Based on our spending and their promotions, I expect we’ll get 2 tickets a year for $200 out of pocket (one reward ticket, one companion ticket, and we pay an annual fee and taxes).

Using those free/cheap tickets and traveling at off-peak times to visit my parents, we can lower our travel costs with a baby.

We’re planning a trip overseas to see R’s family later in the year, and it’s tougher to shell out close to $1k for a baby’s plane ticket than a few hundred for a domestic flight. We haven’t figured out a plan yet, but one possibility is that my mom will fly with us. We’ll have three adult seats, and we’ll take turns carrying L. I’ll let you know how that goes …

I’ve been gathering travel tips from other moms, and this is one of my favorites: If the baby screams on the airplane, buy drinks for the people nearby. Hopefully we won’t have any screaming, but if we do, I think I’ll buy a round.

January 11, 2012

How much does a home birth cost?

Filed under: babies,family finances,insurance — by moneytolive @ 8:24 pm

Apparently blogging will make me happier. Blogging about parenthood will help me stay connected and feel less lonely. I hope that applies for blogging about finances and family and baby!

My little guy is 11 weeks old, and I’m emerging from the newborn fog (sleep deprivation makes it hard to remember just how hard it is). Eleven short weeks ago, L was born at home, as planned.

So, how much does a home birth cost?

Our insurance covered all of the medical expenses, as they would have with a hospital birth, as well. I’m still getting insurance statements, and I’ll write about the total costs when I get all the statements. So far, the costs of a home birth look much lower than a hospital delivery.

We paid for several things out of pocket, totaling $1495.

  • At-home lactation consultation at 10 hours after birth: $150 (treated as out-of-network by our insurance company)
  • Tub rental $300 (includes set-up and clean-up, which is priceless)
  • Doula $800
  • Postpartum doula $245  (7 hours at $35/hour)

Each woman needs to decide for herself and her family where she will feel safest and most comfortable when having a baby.  For our family, a home birth worked. I felt comfortable in my own home, where I could move around and eat as I pleased (turns out I wasn’t too hungry during labor, though I sent my vegan husband to the store for a rotisserie chicken, which I did not eat a single bite of). After the birth, it was lovely to sleep in our own bed and not have to go anywhere for over a week.

The downside to a home birth, though, is that there was not a steady stream of nurses ready to help us with out new little baby. Instead, I had to call lactation consultants eight hours after L’s birth, and fortunately the second person I called was able to come right over. We had already lined up a postpartum doula who helped us with babywearing, soothing, and bathing.

Part of my comfort with a home birth was knowing that we are one mile away from a hospital. Under most circumstances, it would take 5-10 minutes for an ambulance to get to our house and take me/baby to the hospital. Fortunately that wasn’t needed, but the little baby did need resuscitation, and our midwife was within 30 seconds of calling 911 at one point.

Had we gone with a hospital delivery, our out-of-pocket expenses would have been lower – no tub rental, no out-of-network lactation consultant, and probably fewer hours of a postpartum doula. For me and my family, the expense was totally worth it.

October 20, 2011

Am I keeping a secret from my husband?

Filed under: budgeting,family finances — by moneytolive @ 1:24 am

Disclaimer: Financial secrets are generally very bad. Especially if they involved credit cards, separate bank accounts, or fraud.

I keep track of nearly all aspects of our finances – goal tracking, retirement planning, bill paying, day-to-day budgeting. I work out our cash flow several months in advance, so I always know what’s coming.

Financially, things aren’t looking good for the next few months. My income is way down (baby due in late October), and our expenses are way up (baby due in late October). We have enough money to pay for everything, but it’s eating through our day-to-day cash buffer.*

Should I tell R about it? So far, I haven’t.

It’s temporary. Though my income is down, I am doing some freelance work that will replenish our cash buffer (and a little more), but I don’t know when I’ll receive the money.

There’s still money in the bank. We’re not going to overdraw the checking account; we’re not going to have any credit card debt.

I don’t want to worry his pretty little head. I’ve found that if I make an off-hand comment about running out of money, R interprets the situation as much worse than it really is. When I made a comment about spending all of our money on renovations, I meant that we spent all that we had budgeted, while he thought I meant that we spent *all* of our money. I was glad when we resolved that miscommunication!

I’m planning a more important conversation in a few months. Kids are expensive, and they change the family budget. While I have read all about budgets and kids, there’s still a lot of uncertainty with how a kid will affect our budget. My workload is flexible, and I have not decided how much to work, which affects how much we pay in childcare. Within the next few months, we will sit down for a conversation about how the baby is affecting our budget and goals. I care more about that conversation than our current cash flow. I don’t need his input for managing our current cash flow; I need his input as we juggle our goals and budget.

So, should I tell him about our bank account balance?

If R reads this, I guess he’ll find out.


*This cash buffer is separate from our emergency fund.

October 16, 2011

Why no posts for so long?

Filed under: babies,family finances,insurance — by moneytolive @ 12:33 am

It’s been a crazy year. While I thought about the blog regularly and drafted a few posts, it had to take a back seat.

As my (financial) life has changed, so will the focus of this blog. A lot more emphasis on family finances because that’s where I’m at now. Over the past year, R and I have sorted out our joint finances, and while I’d like to say we’ve gotten better at talking about money, I’m not sure that’s true. I’ve learned all about home remodeling on a budget, health and car insurance, and how expensive babies are (a little one is due in two weeks).

September 21, 2010

A debtor to my future self

Filed under: family finances,goals,savings — by moneytolive @ 8:33 pm

I recently wrote about how I like my future self. I save for her to protect her from a rainy day and to give her the freedom to take risks. She’s my friend. My husband, though, has recently been frustrated with his future self.

Over the past year, R got really into saving and saved so much that he couldn’t buy groceries in the days before his next paycheck. He was living paycheck-to-paycheck because of his saving habits. What was he saving so much for? Our wedding, building up a bigger emergency fund, and his current education expenses. While saving is commendable, saving this much made him a debtor to his future self.

Becoming a debtor to your future self is not using money to live, and it can be similar psychologically to paying off actual debt. Saving so much could push a person to abandon saving altogether, much the way adopting too many frugal tactics at once can push someone to stop being frugal at all. There’s a balance between saving for the future and spending today.

Before this, I mainly thought of the differences between saving and paying debts. Having readily available cash skirts the issue of needing to borrow money and take on debt. Most of the time, saving is the better deal — eliminating interest charges and sometimes garnering an additional discount. A different way to look at it, though, is that saving money shifts the cost of a purchase from the future to the past of the object’s purchase/use. While you may get a discount by paying cash (or at least avoid interest charges), you are getting less use out of the purchase by delaying its use into the future.

As we are combining finances, we’re evaluating our savings plan so it won’t leave us feeling broke. As the wedding is over and none of it was financed, that’s one less thing to save for/ pay for. Because R was aggressively building up our emergency fund, we can now reduce our monthly contributions. While we still need to save a little more for his education expenses, we have six months until his final tuition payment is due. When all of these goals are met, we’re going to focus on pre-paying the mortgage. While it seems like there is always more that we could be saving for, at least we’re debtors to ourselves and not to someone else.

August 9, 2010

The depest of intimacies — merging files

Filed under: family finances,productivity — by moneytolive @ 6:00 am
Last summer, I ordered the FreedomFiler. I heard about it on unclutterer and wrote about it here.

Over 12 months, it has proven to be as wonderful as it was initially. The structure makes it easy to file papers that I probably will never need again (i.e., the water bill) without letting them become clutter (in two years, I will shred the water bill). At the same time, important papers are not lost in the jumble — when I needed to send paperwork to our insurance agent recently, I could quickly find the exact papers needed.

I am particularly impressed with the FreedomFiler system because it allowed for the seamless integration of  R’s files — his education records, medical records, bank accounts, tax records, house documents, auto records, … The system is just as easy to navigate for two people as it was for one person. There is only one set of paperwork that we are intentionally not merging — his immigration papers (R has a green card and expects to apply for citizenship in 2-3 years). I am afraid to touch those papers because I would feel awful if I somehow messed them up. For now, these very important papers can stay where they are in a fire-proof safe. Assuming R becomes a US citizen in a few years, we will merge these very important documents into the FreedomFiler.

To be honest though — sorting and merging a lot of papers and files is not a lot of fun. We have merged our files over several months because we both get sick of it after a few hours. The task could probably be completed in a long weekend, but we would be bored and the shredder would wimp out. Instead of devoting a full weekend, we find times when we can both sit in the home office for a few hours. R selects one of his old file folders and starts sorting — some files will be shredded, some are easy to file in the new system, and some need a new home in the new filing system. I add new folders as needed and otherwise let R sort his papers as he wants to.

A key part of the merging of our files has been shredding — shredding 7 years of bank statements, shredding brochures about insurance from the UK in the ’90s.
“I just shredded 7 years of bank statements.”
Are there any sweeter words said by a fiancé?

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